John Rambo, Rocky Balboa, Lt. Raymond Tango – Sylvester Stallone has been an icon of cinema for almost 40 years, keeping his ’80s troupe current through the Expendables franchise. Yet behind all his bravado – through the smoke of the explosions and beneath his gargantuan muscles – there lies a darker dramatic side.
Since 2005 Stallone has wished to direct a biographical picture of the late horror writer Edgar Allan Poe. Although comparisons between Poe’s The Pit & the Pendulum and Rambo are not forthcoming, Stallone has always wanted to bring Poe’s life to the big screen. He admits to producers’ scepticism of the change of pace: “I keep telling my producer Avi Lerner, ‘Make Edgar Allan Poe!’ He says, ‘Does he have a gun?’ ‘No, he doesn’t have a gun,’ ‘Can he throw a knife?’ I say, ‘No, he writes poetry!'”
So what inspired the man/mountain/actor/writer/director to tackle such a difficult individual? Stallone sums up his preoccupation as follows:
“What fascinates me about Poe is that he was such an iconoclast. It’s a story for every young man or woman who sees themselves as a bit outside the box, or has been ostracised during their life as an oddball or too eccentric. It didn’t work for him either. His work was too hip for the room… but he developed the modern mystery story. He was also one of the great cryptologists; there were very few codes he couldn’t crack. He was just an extraordinary guy.”
Although Stallone’s ultimate idol is Leonardo Da Vinci, the Rambo star originally planned to take the lead role – yet it soon became clear that every man has his limits. In an interview with Empire he said, “I’m not playing Poe. ‘Yo, Poe!’ It won’t work! It’ll be some young actor because he dies at 39, but it’s gonna happen.” That “young actor” was destined to be Robert Downey Jr. for a few years, as of 2010. The only quote by RDJ about the project is a simple: “Stallone wrote a great script that he wants to direct about Edgar Allan Poe.”
Stallone was much more complimentary about the Iron Man star. “It has [to] be like Downey, I designed it for Downey,” he explained. “Perhaps I could rework the script. [Maybe] Johnny Depp. It needs a very special actor like that.”
Nonetheless, eight years on from Stallone’s original plan, the project remains at ground level. Following the failure of Francis Ford Coppola’s Twixt and James McTeigue’s The Raven, it seems the lack of interest in the horror author is only going to push possible production further back. However as Stallone continues to prove, with his increasing number of action movies notwithstanding his ever-increasing age, nothing is an impossibility.
Let us end with a revealing statement from Stallone on the subject: “I do have a script that’s gone through 20 mutations. Every few years I take it out and rework it and update it… I will direct it, but it’s never gonna live up to the hype… No matter what I do it’s going to bomb, totally. When you’ve been talking about something for 30 years, it’s impossible [to live up to those expectations].”
So one day we may witness Sylvester Stallone’s Poe, but for the mean time we will have to hold onto the joyous possibility of Nicolas Cage in The Expendables III.